“Hire sales people who are really smart problem solvers, but lack courage, hunger, and competitiveness, and your company will go out of business” – Ben Horowitz.
Hand held devices, IPads, laptops, cell phones, and computers are all tools of the trade for any beer sales person in today’s market. There is not a major distributor in the U.S. today that does not provide, or have, the tools of the trade, including state-of-the-art warehousing and logistics, all using the most sophisticated software available. This evolution of the role of the sales person in today’s beer environment has been nothing but dramatic.
Consider that before the electronic revolution in the time of driver sales, each route maintained a route book. This route book contained every detail the salesman needed, including the address, buyer’s name, manager, phone number, hours of operation, times of delivery and even what door to use. The book contained the account sales history and enabled the recording, by the route driver, of each visit and the inventory left from the last visit. Sales were recorded and displays with pricing were also noted.
The driver knew everything he or she needed to know about each account. The immediate beer supervisor had access to the same information. In fact, if he driver was out on vacation, it was easy for the supervisor or swing driver to pick up the book and follow the pages which were delineated by day by stop. The supervisor and salesman usually met every morning to review any goals or targets. The process was very simple.
Of course, this was the time when beer wholesalers had limited SKUs and only one or two breweries. The driver had enough time to actually sell, deliver merchandise, rotate, and even clean signs in addition to driving the truck.
The question arises that with wholesalers today representing hundreds of SKUs from numerous breweries, are salespeople as effective as they were when driver-sales was the norm? When a wholesaler adds three or four new breweries over a year’s time, are these new brands a bolt on to a pad, or does the wholesaler investment spend and add to their sales team.
There have been times when a wholesaler would take on a new brewery while informing the brewery that the wholesaler will deliver the beer, however, the brewery would have to provide the sales support. That brewery could be stuck with no other option other to not go into that market.
Plus, there is the financial consideration. While leading Warsteiner, if a certain state or region grew to 5,000+ HL, we started looking into adding a regional sales manager, and once that area hit 7,000+HL, the trigger was pulled on a hire. In addition, Warsteiner targeted potential markets where people might be added in the future.
We know that the overall industry STRs are not very good this year and while we can speculate, one reason for this might be the expectations and effectiveness of today’s sales person. Are they really selling or are they just maintaining their business? Is it fair to hold them to the same standards as the driver salesmen? There is no easy answer.
Sales may lead to advertising as much as advertising leads to sales.